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CATF Unmuted: Virtual event to tempt audience with taste of 2021 season repertory

By Staff | May 15, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — After having to announce the rescheduling of its 30th anniversary season from July 2020 to 2021 last month, the Contemporary American Theater Festival began to think of ways it could still connect with its audience over the summer.

The answer came rather quickly to the festival staff, according to CATF Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen.

“I think that when we first started talking about the fact that we would probably not be having a season, which I’m sure was early March, given what was happening in the world, we were still thinking of how we could still offer things to our audience that would be similar to what we offer during the summer,” McKowen said.

According to McKowen, opening weekend will still be held this year, on July 10-12, but in a virtual format. It will center around unveiling the festival’s processes and conversations regarding the production of its six plays next summer.

“We’re going to follow our opening weekend format a little bit,” McKowen said. “So on Friday night there are going to be themed events with two of the plays and we are going to have live chat experiences with that, so people will feel like they are getting to touch the festival experience.”


A similar experience will continue on the next two days, as each will focus on two different plays from CATF’s 30th anniversary season, according to CATF Founder and Producing Director Ed Herendeen.

“Think of this like a preview — an online virtual pay-what-you-can preview experience. We’re going to do interviews with the playwrights, interviews with the design team and directors, interviews with Peggy McKowen and myself,” Herendeen said, mentioning contracts had already been signed with the design teams and six directors for the summer’s plays, and the preparations for this weekend will make it possible for those agreements to be honored.

“Our artists and our staff have really been working, and we’re just craving the creative experience,” Herendeen said, mentioning the set and costume designs for next summer will be completed for this weekend. “So it’s kept our creative juices flowing.”

Herendeen said he is currently in the process of selecting 10 actors out of those he has auditioned in New York City. Those who are chosen will be paired up to perform a 10-minute excerpt from each play, which will be included in the weekend experiences.

“90 percent of it’s going to be live, like when we see the playwright and then you can type in a question for the playwright,” Herendeen said of the virtual experience platform. “The actual 10-minute scenes will be recorded. We’ll go in and edit conversations we’ve had with designers over the last month. When you come a year from now, you’re going to say, ‘Wow, I saw that when it was a model!’

“Hopefully by giving you this preview you will want to experience it that much more. Because we all know we want to — when it’s safe — we want you to be ready to come and join us as a community and see live storytelling with a live audience,” Herendeen said.

“The Contemporary American Theater Festival will not be muted. We want to share our voices and we want to share our preview with our audiences. We want to share Shepherdstown with our patrons,” Herendeen said. “We really want to make sure Shepherdstown will be alive and thriving next season.”

To reserve space for yourself on the preview experiences, visit www.catf.org.